Challenges Faced by Greek Learners of English Language in Pronunciation. By Thanos Megrelis

Greek speakers learning English may encounter various difficulties related to pronunciation due to differences in the phonetic systems of the two languages. 

Challenges Faced by Greek Learners of English Language in Pronunciation. By Thanos Megrelis

Vowel sounds: Greek has a different set of vowel sounds compared to English, and some English vowel sounds may not exist in Greek. Greek speakers might struggle with accurately producing and distinguishing between English vowels like /ɪ/ (as in “sit”),/iː/ (as in “see”), /ʌ/ (as in “but”), and /æ/ (as in “cat”). 

Rhotic sounds: English is a rhotic language, meaning the “r” sound is pronounced in certain positions. Greek does not have a strong “r” sound, and Greek learners may struggle to produce the correct “r” sound in words like “red” or “car.”

Greek speakers learning English might have difficulty recognizing and distinguishing between the schwa (/ə/) and /i/ sounds within words.

The schwa (/ə/) sound is an unstressed, neutral vowel sound commonly found in weak syllables, such as in the word “sofa” or “banana.” Greeks may not be familiar with this sound as Greek language has a more consistent vowel system with fewer unstressed vowel variations.

Word stress: English is a stress-timed language, which means that stressed syllables are pronounced with more prominence, and there are differences in the duration of syllables. Greek, on the other hand, is a syllable-timed language. Greek speakers may have difficulty adjusting to English word stress patterns.

Intonation and rhythm: English has specific patterns of intonation and rhythm that convey meaning and attitude in spoken language. Greek learners may find it challenging to grasp these nuances and might speak in a more monotone manner, which can impact their overall communication.

Last but most important are the features of connected speech. Greek learners may find it difficult to identify and apply these linking rules, resulting in their speech sounding disjointed and less fluent. Some challenges related to connected speech for Greeks include:

Consonant clusters: English often has consonant clusters at the end of one word and the beginning of the next. Greeks may struggle to pronounce these clusters smoothly, as Greek words on the majority of circumstances end in vowels.

Elision and assimilation: English speakers often elide or combine certain sounds when speaking quickly, such as “I am” becoming “I’m,” or “have to” becoming “hafta.” Greeks may find these changes challenging to follow and reproduce.

Intrusive R: English speakers sometimes add an “r” sound between two vowels when the second word starts with a vowel. For example, “law and order” may be pronounced as “lawr and order.” Greeks might have difficulty recognizing and using this intrusive R.

The feature of connected speech called “fusion” refers to the process where two or more words are blended together, combining into a single continuous sound or pronunciation. This phenomenon occurs when certain sounds at the end or beginning of words merge or assimilate to facilitate smoother and faster speech in natural, everyday conversations (e.g What made you lie to the police- What May July to the police).

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